Richland's crime rate dropped in 2013

By Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldMarch 18, 2014 

Benton County's second-largest city saw another drop in crime last year.

Richland's overall crime rate dipped 21 percent in 2013, with sex offenses, robberies, simple assaults, arsons and weapons law violations among the categories that saw decreases, according to the police department's annual report.

Motor vehicle thefts dropped by more than half, from 71 cases in 2012 to 34 cases last year. Drug and narcotic offenses also saw a significant dip, with 210 in 2013 compared with 490 the year before.

The numbers represent "a lot of effort, a lot of good work done by the Richland Police Department and the community in partnership with us," said Police Chief Chris Skinner. He presented the report to the city council on Tuesday.

Some crimes did increase in 2013.

Burglaries rose slightly from 193 cases in 2012 to 199 last year, and the number of aggravated assaults, embezzlements and stolen property offense all saw bumps.

The city also had three cases last year that fell into the category of murder or non-negligent manslaughter, including the death of 9-month-old Serenity Reedy in June, the July shooting death of 17-year-old Joshua Snapp and the September stabbing of 32-year-old Rebeca Vandeventer. There were no such cases in 2012.

While the city's overall crime rate dropped, the police department's calls for service rose about 1 percent, from 25,964 in 2012 to 26,327 last year.

The department has 73 staff, including 59 sworn officers from the chief to the newest hire. That translates to about 1.14 officers per 1,000 residents, which is below the state average of about 1.5 to 1.6 officers per 1,000.

"You can see that we're well below the state average of officers per thousand and still able to accomplish an awful lot through the hard work and dedicated efforts by those men and women," Skinner said.

The annual report highlights numerous accomplishments in 2013, from the department's community outreach and education efforts to its technology updates, including use of the SmartForce platform that's improved communication and efficiency.

Among the other highlights:

-- The Street Crimes Unit was responsible for the investigation and capture of a suspect responsible for more than 100 vehicle prowls and burglaries, and it worked with local law enforcement and the Secret Service to investigate a counterfeit money and check washing scheme. The investigation led to multiple federal indictments.

-- The Traffic Safety Unit worked with the Richland School District to identify and ticket drivers who didn't stop for school buses that were picking up or dropping off children. The unit issued 24 infractions for that violation.

The traffic team also worked with the Volunteers in Police Service group to identify and place radar trailers in about 100 spots around the city.

-- The Richland Bomb Squad responded to 15 calls -- from suspicious packages to old dynamite, hand grenades, homemade firework bombs and pipe bombs. The squad's Remotec EOD robot also was refurbished, paid for largely by a Homeland Security grant.

The police department also participated in the Metro Drug Task Force, the Tri-City Violent Gang Task Force and the Tri-City Regional SWAT Team. And 7,816 hours of training were provided to Richland officers in 2013, or an average of about 135 hours per officer.

Watch for the full annual report on the city's website, www.ci.richland.wa.us.

-- Sara Schilling: 582-1529; sschilling@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @saraTCHerald

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